County uses money on hand to lower taxes


LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention approved a budget Tuesday night which reduces the amount to be raised by taxes by $873,374 from the budget proposed by Belknap County Commissioners, with the bulk of that decrease coming from the use of an additional $605,000 from the county's fund balance to pay existing debt. They also made no further changes to funding for outside agencies.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) tried unsuccessfully to persuade the legislators to apply the additional $605,000 to pay for replacing the roof on the Belknap County Nursing Home rather than reducing taxes..
Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton), who two weeks ago persuaded the convention to increase the amount of the fund balance used to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes from $1.75 million to $2.38 million, said that the county still has $2 million in the fund balance and thinks it is an appropriate use of the fund balance to further reduce taxes.
But Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said that $2 million is not a good fund balance and said that he idea of maintaining a healthy fund balance is to be able to avoid spikes in taxes brought about by unforeseen circumstances.
Both DeVoy and Tilton pointed out that not using the fund balance for the roof makes it more than likely that a supplemental appropriation will be required later this year if the roof is to be replaced at the same time that a contractor is working on the roof of the community corrections center which will be built next to the existing county jail.
Work is supposed to start on that project in May and DeVoy has suggested that the roof could paid for with funds from the $8 million bond issue legislators approved last November for the new county facility. But both he and Tilton said there is no guarantee that those funds will be available.
The final budget approved by the convention calls for spending $35,116,837 with anticipated revenues of $22,153,397 and $12,963,400 to be raised by taxes.
Legislators, who last week held a public hearing on the budget at which extensive testimony was heard from supporters of outside agencies opposing cuts the convention had made to their budget requests, reaffirmed their support for the funding levels they had established before the hearing.
Last week they restored the UNH Cooperative Extension Service funding to the $152,217 sought by the commissioners. But last night in a series of votes which saw only Tilton, Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), Rep, Valerie Fraser (R-New Hampton) and Rep. Dave Russell (R-Gilmanton) supporting full funding, they stood by the cuts made to the Belknap County Economic Development Council which was cut from $75,000 to $60,000; Genesis Behavioral Health, cut from $34,200 to $30,000, the Community Action Program cut from $86,905 to $60,000 and the Belknap County Conservation District from $92,400 to $80,000.

Early morning fire at Weirs condo quickly extinguished

Early morning fire at Weirs condo quickly extinguished

A two-alarm fire that was reported heavily damaged a third-floor condominium unit at the Village at Winnipesaukee on 3 Tree Top Lane burns through the roof early Sunday morning. (Courtesy Photo/Laconia Fire Department)



LACONIA — A two-alarm fire early Sunday morning heavily damaged one condominium unit in The Weirs and caused minor smoke and water damage to three others.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said firefighters were called at 4 a.m. for a fire. He said when the first truck arrived, nothing was visible from the outside of the condo, but when firefighters got to the third floor condo, they encountered fire.

When smoke began pouring out of the back of the condo, the on-scene commander called for a second alarm.

Erickson said the fire was caused by a wood stove in the third-floor condo and was burning between the floors. He said they knocked down the bulk of the fire within minutes but spent the next two hours going through the 15-unit building to see how far it had spread.

He said the building has smoke alarms, but because the fire was burning in the floor, the alarms never sounded until it broke out of the back of the building.

Erickson said the building is mostly time shares but was very busy because of the Annual Fishing Derby in Meredith. He said the man who was in the apartment that initially burned was a pastor from Manchester who went around and banged on all the doors to alert others to the fire.

The building was empty when firefighters arrived.

Erickson estimated the damage to be in the $50,000 range but estimates the building is worth about $500,000. He said the damage to the condo that had the fire will take some time to repair but thinks the other three affected condos should be able to be occupied in a reasonable amount of time.

He said no one including civilians and firefighters was injured.

Shaker Regional sup’t retires with year to go

Maria Dreyer


BELMONT — Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Maria Dreyer will retire at the end of this school year, although she has a contract through June 30, 2017.
“It’s very sad we’re going to lose an educational leader like Maria,” said former School Board member Donna Cilley. “Her love and understanding of education exceeds any administrator we’re ever had.”
Cilley went on to say that when Dreyer was hired, she was given directions by the School Board and she followed them, up to and including shifting toward competency-based education.
“She is all about the children,” Cilley said.
While the School Board announcement gave no reason for her sudden retirement, about a month ago a number of residents, circulated a petition requesting her removal.
One person who signed it said there were a number of signatures on it but felt that the School Board “killed it” by inviting certain a few of the petitioners to meet with them behind closed doors. He said he since regrets signing the petition.
School Board Chairman Sean Embree said there is no direct relationship to Dreyer’s choice to retire.
Last week, The Laconia Daily Sun sent a Right To Know request to Embree, who replied Tuesday that he has brought the matter to the board’s attorneys, who will decide what will happen.
The School Board is also poring over the results of a culture survey that was proposed by District Moderator Roy Roberts at last year’s district meeting. At a recent public hearing to discuss the budget and warrant articles on this year’s ballot, Embree said the board has it and is working to disseminate the results.
Dreyer could not be reached for comment.